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What happened to the Philippines?

November 14, 2007 7:24pm
Ophel Belo is the valedictorian for 2007 at the recently concluded graduation ceremonies of the Filipino Workers' Resource Center - Skills Training Program (FWRC-STP) here in Kuala Lumpur.

Although she never became my student at FWRC-STP, I was fortunate enough to work with her during the center's numerous events. She's quiet but efficient, unassuming yet smart. Despite her brilliance, she is working as a domestic helper here in KL.

In her valedictory address, Ophel had a lot to say about the sad state our country is in.

K. Flores


VALEDICTORY ADDRESS
by: Ms. Ophelia A. Belo

Excellencies, Ambassadors Lecaros and Brillantes, Mrs. Lecaros, Labatt JBJ and Mrs. Jimenez, Faculty Advisers, Embassy Officials, Filcom Leaders, Malaysian Nationals, Princess Becky, Datu Lim Sun Hoe and Datu Sunny Lim, Honorees, Guests, fellow students and graduates, friends countrymen and visitors, good afternoon,

I thank God for this honor and I express gratitude to my country and government for this opportunity. I accept this distinction with both joy and sadness. There is joy in my heart right now because once again I have proven that there is a reward for hardwork, dedication, and excellence. But I am sad right at these moment, I am sad for our country and for our people. I am sad for you fellow graduates. And I am sad for myself.

I am sad that the Philippines, the homeland of brilliant, highly skilled and very articulate people, is now becoming the No. 1 supplier of cheap labor including domestic helper into the booming world of global markets. We can kid ourselves by saying there's nothing wrong in being a domestic helper. Oh come on! I am a domestic helper myself and I'm not ashamed to be so. But then, what?

I am looking at the big picture and I am looking at our country and I am disappointed that there is not much hope if we remain there. I am regretful that every single day, no less than 3,200 Filipinos are leaving the Philippines, many of them for good, in the hope of finding jobs that can send our children to school, buy medicines for our sick, repair our dilapidated shanties or pay for all our indebtedness.

What happened to the Philippines?

Our country is supposed to be the Pearl of the Orient Seas. In 1961, many Malaysians used to envy the Filipinos. They dreamt to study in UP, La Salle or Ateneo. Today, Malaysians are the employers of Filipino domestic helpers. They have sent an astronaut into space, while the Filipinos are still quarreling about government contracts and alleged rigging of elections.

We, the OFWs must begin the process of the renewal for our country. The FWRC is our center of excellence to be able to compete globally and turn around our country.

The global labor markets are unforgiving. The avalanche of rising demands for quality comes rushing every single moment and the standards of excellence keep on rising without pause. Only those who never stop learning will survive in this crazy and mind-boggling competition for skills.

Filipino engineers and technicians in IT who surf the cyberspaces for emerging opportunities find themselves competing with highly competent Indian computer wizards. Indians are also emerging as our OFW's top competitors in the global labor markets.

Our oil and gas engineers are still preferred by Malaysian employers because the local chemical and mechanical engineers prefer to work in UK and in the Middle East. This is the result of globalization of human capital.

Our domestic helpers from the Philippines are still the preferred ones by Malaysian royalty, high government officials and top businessmen. But the Filipino domestics represent only a miniscule 2% of the entire DH market in Malaysia, Indonesia commands more than 90% of the 500,000 household service providers in this country. But the Philippine government is aiming for QUALITY employment. We frown upon QUANTITY or high volume of 5 D's: the jobs that are DIRTY, DIFFICULT, DANGEROUS, DEMEANING and DECEPTIVE.

Even if the Filipina DHs are only few, they enjoy superior benefits. They enjoy Sunday day-offs every week or at least every another week with the two Sundays paid for when they are not allowed to go. They have much higher pay and better terms and conditions of employment. They are allowed to study in the FWRC Skills Training Program.

The Filipino household service workers, along with other OFWs do study in FWRC. They learn word processing, spreadsheet, internet, illustrator, photoshop, autocad and multiple computer applications. They study Commercial Baking, Advanced Cake Decorating, Western Food Cooking, Basic Nursing, Reflexology and Arts and Crafts. They even learn the Art of Communication, Composition and Correspondences, Business and Social Correspondences, Financial Management, Business Development and Entrepreneurship.

The Labor Attache and top Embassy Officials teach BLAWSFIL (Basic Labor Laws for Filipino, a subject created by Labat JBJ as a means for empowerment, to arm the OFWs with fundamental knowledge of the labor and family laws, immigration and even contract laws and criminal statutes. The migrant workers from the Philippines are aware of their rights as well as obligations to employers and host government. They have less chances of being arrested and detained and they are more confident when confronted with legal issues.

OFWs from Malaysia who are now venturing to UK like Lyn dela Rama and Gene Sarmiento, both outstanding FWRC alumnae, have better chances of survival and even excellence in more challenging work environments. Former FWRC resource persons like Dang Penarubia who migrated to Canada have better probability of success than others who went withoug FWRC KASH (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits)

Today, the 21st of October, here in the Grand Ballroom of Crown Princess Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, few shall graduate those among the 490 who enrolled in January, survived the grueling holistic training in FWRC. Today, the word GRADUATION should be understood as a process, not an end, a process of enhancing elevating, improving and developing the KASH positions of the OFW who made the correct decision to study in FWRC.

Today, also is a COMMENCEMENT, a starting point, a beginning, a point of embarkation to a higher level of consciousness, to a better perspective in life, a much improved point of view and a stronger, higher quality of qualification, a better state of readiness, an empowered new beginning of the rest of our lifetime journey.

The quest for excellence, the drive to win the global labor markets, the hunger for bigger challenges, the thirst for learning -- an insatiable yearning to learn more -- these are the hallmarks of men and women who are geared and programmed for success in life.

The next motto of FWRC is "ON TO THE MARCH FOR EXCELLENCE," both in skills and in Character. Both committed and competent. Thus, today is indeed a day for celebration. But after the celebration, we need to do something for our country.

And so today, ladies and gentlemen, what are we going to do to create a meaningful difference in the future of our country? Evil triumphs because good men do nothing. Let us all do something, no matter how small.

FIRST, let us not remit everything that we earn here. Let us save at least 50% through the Samahang Impok Bayan and keep it until we go home for good.

SECOND, let us all take courses in the FWRC that will help us in our reintegration like Business Management, Entrepreneurship Accounting, Basic Laws and other relevant courses. Indeed it is only bring EXCELLENCE THAT WE CAN TO THE GLOBAL WORLD.

THIRD, let us all write to our congressmen, let us write to our newspaper, let us e-mail jour opinions and let us be active in denouncing the abuses of our political leaders.

FOURTH, let us rally behind honest and hardworking officials and staff in government but let us denounce and expose and charge all those who violate their oaths as public servants.

FIFTH, let us help in the FWRC. Whatever honor we receive today should provide us an inspiration to share our knowledge to other OFWs.

SIXTH, let us discipline our families at home. They should learn to value our remittances and not squander them in luxuries. Let us let them learn that we worked hard for the money and we should not tolerate extravagances.

SEVENTH, let us all be aware of all the economic, social and political developments in our country. Let us monitor what are the trends and programs of our country's future. And let us share our thoughts with those who spend our remittances.

AND lastly number EIGHT, let us all be aware that all that were, all that are and all that will be in the Philippines are driven by economic realities, high population growth, labor excess economy, cheap labor, globalization without safety nets, insufficient social services. All these are exacerbating the pains and sufferings of our people.

These are the reasons why the joy of my success today is eclipsed by the sadness in our situation as a nation and as a people.

We've got to feel the pain so that we will do something about it. We can not continue deluding ourselves. We have to face realities and bite the bullet.

According to a great social scientist: THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THE DISCONTENTED. The Filipinos should start to be discontented with our situation and tell our leaders of our discontentment.

According to a Chinese Philosopher: IT IS CRAZY TO EXPECT DIFFERENT RESULTS IF WE CONTINUE TO REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKES. The Filipinos should accept that there are for too many mistakes and we have to correct them.

And according to Dr. Jose Rizal in his NOLI ME TANGERE, recorded in the history of human sufferings is a cancer of so malignant a character that the least touch irritates it.

Since the time of Rizal until now more than a century after, the cancer is still here -- a SOCIAL CANCER, AN ECONOMIC MALADY.

The only difference is that we can do something about it. Yes we can. And we should. No matter how strait the gate and how charged with punishment the scroll, we are the masters of our fate. We are the captain of our souls, to borrow from Invictus.

Kaya mga kababayan, dapat umpisahan na ang pagbabago, umpisahan sa ating sarili. Kung hindi ngayon, kaylan pa? Kung hindi tayo and mag umpisa, sino pa? Bahala tayo sa ating kinabukasan at bahala tayo sa kinabukasan ng ating bansa Pakaisipin ninyo ito. Huwag kayong masyadong magsaya. Dapat magkaroon din kayo ng lungkot, upang magsikap kayong magbago. Dahil ang mga problema ay hindi nakakatuwa.

Marami pong salamat.

-- GMANews.TV